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History of the Montessori Method

Children build themselves from what they find in their environment. Dr. Maria Montessori, who in 1896 became Italy’s first female physician, discovered that fact through research on children with disabilities. Her findings of how children learn inspired her to return to the University of Rome to study psychology and philosophy, and later teach anthropology. In 1906, Dr. Montessori founded her first Casa dei Bambini, (Children’s House) to teach sixty under-privileged children. Through scientific observation of these children, Dr. Montessori recognized that they “responded to the materials with a deep concentration, resulting in a fundamental shift in their way of being, changing from the ordinary behavior of fantasy, inattention and disorder, to a state of profound peace, calm and order within their environment.”

When Dr. Montessori observed this change with all the children in her environment, she concluded that she had discovered children’s true, normal nature, and she founded the Montessori Method. Later, Dr. Montessori referred to this change as normalization and the new emerging children as normalized. (NAMTA, Maria Montessori: A Brief Biography).

Dr. Montessori visited the United States in 1913. That year Alexander Graham Bell and his wife founded the Montessori Educational Association. During her second visit to the U.S. in 1915, Dr. Montessori attended the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco, gaining world attention with her “glass house” classroom exhibit. She conducted a teacher-training course and addressed the annual conventions of the National Education Association and the International Kindergarten Union.

In 1917, the Spanish government invited Dr. Montessori to open a research institute. Two years later, she began a series of teacher-training courses in London. In 1922 she was appointed as government inspector of schools. She founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in 1929. However, because she opposed Mussolini’s fascism, she was forced to leave Italy in 1934. Dr. Montessori then traveled to Spain and eventually opened the Montessori Training Center in the Netherlands in 1938. In 1939 she founded a series of training courses in India. In 1949 she founded the Montessori Center in London and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950, and 1951. Dr. Montessori died in 1952. Her work continues through the AMI, as well as through the American Montessori Society (AMS).

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